Here’s my thoughts on the Emissions Trading Scheme. I’m not a climate scientist or an economist, so I need to admit that I don’t really get all the technical details of how the scheme should work or what the solutions are to the negotiation impasses that Jeanette seems to have reached this week.
I tend to prefer a trading scheme to a tax because theoretically at least a trading scheme limits the amount of carbon emissions whereas a carbon tax just imposes a cost. A trading scheme also allows for a bit of carrot as well as stick. (It recognises that there are economic opportunities, as well as costs in a low carbon or carbon neutral economy).
That said though the carbon tax vs trading scheme boat sailed long ago taking with it a lot of Labour’s credibility on climate change issues. The current scheme is deeply flawed. If you had to pick two areas of the economy that you could not afford to play pork barrel politics with over climate change they would be transport and agriculture, and yet that is exactly what the government is proposing to do.
The financial assistance for warm dry homes is good and equitable. But it doesn’t overcome the hurdle, in my mind at least, of how you have an effective trading scheme when some people in the scheme are allowed to produce for free and others have a cost imposed.
Imagine a fish trading scheme where the government said a certain amount of fish could be caught and fishers could buy and sell those rights among themselves, but one fishing boat was allowed to ignore the rules and catch as much as it wanted. What would the outcome be?
I think the Greens have got two questions to consider. First the strategic political question – what is it best to do before the election? And the Machiavelli in me says that caucus should vote against the ETS, differentiate itself from flawed Labour greenwash and force all the other parties to come up with a real trading scheme that doesn’t look like it would leak like a sieve.
But the second question is the ethical political one – what decision will be best for the climate? And I guess this turns on two points:
- Is this something on offer better than nothing?
- And can a deeply flawed trading scheme can be amended and improved after the election?
If it is better than nothing, it’s not much better. From National’s policy to date I can’t see them improving the Emissions Trading Scheme in a climate friendly way shortly after the election, especially once Labour has already put something in place allowing them to avoid the political debate. And I can’t see Labour backtracking on their own legislation and admitting they got it wrong either.
Despite that I’m reluctantly leaning towards favouring caucus voting for the ETS. If Pachauri’s timeframe is correct, or even the 100 months one, then we need to act now and then again, rather than instead, immediately after the election. It’s a long shot that we’ll come up with something that will work but the immediacy forces us to give what we have a go now rather than wait another year. So that’s my answer for now, but it doesn’t ‘feel’ right so I’m happy to be convinced otherwise.